'Puss in Boots'

Both of this week's new wide releases, 'Tower Heist' and 'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas,' have an Occupy Wall Street, proles-vs.-fat-cats subtext, but it was one particular fat-cat who seized a surprise win at the box office. 'Puss in Boots' not only managed to outduel both newcomers, but also shocked by holding on to almost all of the business it scored during last weekend's record-breaking debut.

'Puss in Boots' was expected to have long legs; not only did the 'Shrek' spinoff have strong word-of-mouth, but it also faced no new family-film competition this weekend. Pundits expected a standard second-weekend drop of about 35 percent, to $22 million. Instead, 'Puss' fell behind last week by only a whisker, with estimates showing a 3 percent drop to $33.0 million. That's the lowest non-holiday drop since 2003, when 'Brother Bear' dipped just 4.5 percent during its second weekend in November. In 10 days, 'Puss' has collared $75.5 million.

'Tower Heist'

Conversely, 'Tower Heist' was expected to open much stronger than it did, in the $30 million range where Ben Stiller's wide release movies tend to open. Besides, this one also boasted director Brett Ratner and Eddie Murphy (in a role widely touted as a return to comic form). Yet it opened in second place and mustered just $25.1 million, according to studio estimates. Blame middling reviews, 'Harold & Kumar' and too little youth appeal. Studio polling found that 62 percent of the audience was over 30, which means that people not old enough to remember when Eddie Murphy was funny didn't show up.

'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas'

Chronic underachievers Harold and Kumar also underperformed. Pundits predicted an opening of around $17 million, based on the hit franchise's popularity, surprisingly good reviews, and the surcharges from 3D (used here in a way that's actually integral to the film and not superfluous). Yet the pair's latest joint effort clipped only an estimated $13.1 million and finished in third place. Maybe audiences still have 3D fatigue after a summer of undistinguished 3D releases, or maybe 'Tower Heist' swiped much of the buddy-comedy audience.

Rounding out the top five: In fourth place, 'Paranormal Activity 3' scared up another $8.5 million, according to estimates, down 53 percent from last week, for a total of $95.3 million. At No. 5, sci-fi thriller 'In Time' slipped 36 percent to an estimated $7.7 million, for a two-week total of $24.2 million.

Outside the top 10, speculative Shakespeare saga 'Anonymous' expanded to 513 theaters and pulled in an estimated $1.3 million, finishing at No. 13 and scoring a two-weekend total of $2.7 million. Long-distance romance 'Like Crazy' made $270,000 at just 16 locations, for an enormous per-screen average of $16,875 and a two-week total of $448,000. And outside the U.S., 'The Adventures of Tintin' grabbed another estimated $40.8 million, brining its two-week total to $125.3 million. At this rate, the eventual U.S. release next month of this Steven Spielberg special seems almost an afterthought.

Box office for the year remains off by about 4 percent, or $356 million, with 2011 grosses to date at $8.6 billion, compared to $8.9 billion by this time last year.

'Puss in Boots' - Trailer No. 3

The full top 10:
1. 'Puss in Boots,' $33.0 million (3,693 screens), $75.5 million total
2. 'Tower Heist,' $25.1 million (3,367), new release
3. 'A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas,' $13.1 million (2,865), new release
4. 'Paranormal Activity 3,' $8.5 million (3,286), $95.3 million
5. 'In Time,' $7,7 million (3,127), $24.2 million
6. 'Footloose,' $4.6 million (2,811), $44.8 million
7. 'Real Steel,' $3.4 million (2,438), $78.7 million
8. 'The Rum Diary,' $3.0 million (2,292), $10.4 million
9. 'The Ides of March,' $2.0 million (1,391), $36.8 million
10. 'Moneyball,' $1.9 million (1,278), $70.3 million

[Photos: DreamWorks Animation, Universal, Warner Bros.]

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